Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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August 19, 2010

WHAT WAS DEAN THINKING?.... When Ben Smith first reported yesterday afternoon that Howard Dean was siding with the right on Park51, I found it hard to believe. Indeed, when I clicked the link and noticed that it had been posted by Breitbart, I held off on mentioning it all -- he does have a history with creative editing. ("Fool the political world once, shame on you....")

But Democracy for America confirmed that the recording is legitimate, and Dean really did take a line that seems completely at odds with his values and principles.

Dean responded by saying he favored some sort of "compromise" of the issue that involved using the proposed site for "people of all faiths." He called the presence of the mosque an "affront to people who lost their lives, including Muslims." He then went on to say that while the congregation building the mosque probably has good intentions, "there's no point trying to do something good if it's met with enormous resistance from a lot of folks."

How a Muslim center could be an "affront" to Muslims who were killed nine years ago is a mystery.

Apparently referring to a closed Burlington Coat Factory store, Dean added, "That site doesn't belong to any particular religion; it belongs to all people of all faiths." Asked if the proposed community center should be moved to another location, Dean said, "Well, I think another site would be a better idea."

When Sam Stein gave him a chance to walk it back, Dean more or less reiterated his position. "I don't believe all this nonsense the right wing is putting out about radicals and all that stuff," Dean said. "I take the congregation at its word that it is a moderate congregation trying to heal the wounds of 9/11. But the best way to heal the wounds is not to have a court battle, but to sit down and try to work things out."

For the record, it's not a congregation trying to build the community center, and there is no court battle.

I have no idea how Dean ended up with this position. It's just bizarre.

It's also probably worth mentioning a detail I hadn't heard before today. Politico reports that the Park51 building may not be built anyway: "The Cordoba Initiative hasn't begun fundraising yet for its $100 million goal. The group's latest fundraising report with the State Attorney General's office, from 2008, shows exactly $18,255 -- not enough even for a down payment on the half of the site the group has yet to purchase."

The national uproar is baseless anyway, but the building in question may never exist.

Steve Benen 9:30 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (31)

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Comments

And when it doesn't go through, for simple, unrelated reasons, Fox, et al, will declare victory, insisting this is more proof of Obama's weakness and the fall of the Left.

Posted by: sengber on August 19, 2010 at 9:42 AM | PERMALINK

Dean is misinformed in his premises, and mistaken in his conclusions.

Posted by: DJ on August 19, 2010 at 9:48 AM | PERMALINK

when howard was governor here, he said and did some pretty stupid things then as well. but he was still a damn fine governor overall.

Posted by: just bill on August 19, 2010 at 9:49 AM | PERMALINK

Another place to send 10 bucks? Where do we sign up for the fund raising emails?

Posted by: Shantyhag on August 19, 2010 at 9:56 AM | PERMALINK

This is NOT the issue the Dems want on the front burner at election time. They do not want the party to be the Islamic support group. I agree with those who say this is a no-brainer, and the center should be permitted to open. However, I think the issue was a made-for-cameras, fomented issue that was intended to stir up controversy, as well, and the only ones to benefit from it are the Thugs.

Posted by: candideinnc on August 19, 2010 at 9:58 AM | PERMALINK

Aeeeiiiahhhh!!

Posted by: stevio on August 19, 2010 at 9:59 AM | PERMALINK

A testament:
To the vacancy of Republican issuemakers, that they have to come to this to get press.
To the emptiness of the media--no shark attacks or missing blond teens, I guess.
To the vacuity of that part of the American electorate; another bright, shiny thing dangling in the wind.

Posted by: Steve Paradis on August 19, 2010 at 10:04 AM | PERMALINK

Dean is misinformed in his premises, and mistaken in his conclusions.

No kidding. And you'd think that Howard Dean, of all people, would know that when he finds his position in agreement with Newt Gingrich, Sarah Palin and the shrieking harpy Pamela Geller, he needs to re-examine his premises and conclusions.

Posted by: Gregory on August 19, 2010 at 10:05 AM | PERMALINK

The national uproar is baseless anyway, but the building in question may never exist.

Ooooooooooooooooooooooooooh, THIS is why the hooplah: the wingers who started this (how did it start, Rove I assume?) know the project's a non-starter. Of course. Of course. It all makes sense now. They get to claim victory for killing a project that was never going to happen.

Posted by: ManOutOfTime on August 19, 2010 at 10:06 AM | PERMALINK

Perhaps he thinks the Burlington Coat Factory is a Burlington VT business?

Posted by: Jamobey on August 19, 2010 at 10:08 AM | PERMALINK

In terms of the center lagging on fundraising - I'm pretty sure they'll come up with the money now. This is now the most famous unbuilt community center in the world!

Posted by: Jamobey on August 19, 2010 at 10:09 AM | PERMALINK

"And when it doesn't go through, for simple, unrelated reasons, Fox, et al, will declare victory, insisting this is more proof of Obama's weakness and the fall of the Left." -sengber

Kind of like their self-proclaimed "War on Christmas".

Posted by: 2Manchu on August 19, 2010 at 10:10 AM | PERMALINK

The good news is this will all go away in a week or two, and- given the attention span of the American Voter-the Democrats can have their turn at ginning up false outrage in time for November 2nd.

Posted by: DAY on August 19, 2010 at 10:23 AM | PERMALINK

Now with Obama bringing the last combat brigade out of Iraq and turning Iraqi security over to Iraqis -- Al Qaeda needs a new "recruiting tool" and it only costs $18,255.

Posted by: Ray Waldren on August 19, 2010 at 10:48 AM | PERMALINK

"It's also probably worth mentioning a detail I hadn't heard before today. Politico reports that the Park51 building may not be built anyway: 'The Cordoba Initiative hasn't begun fundraising yet for its $100 million goal. The group's latest fundraising report with the State Attorney General's office, from 2008, shows exactly $18,255 -- not enough even for a down payment on the half of the site the group has yet to purchase.'"

That's great. So, the hatred and other vile sputum we've been treated to for the past three weeks from Geller, Gingrich, Palin, and Bachmann Crazy Overdrive was just for fun? Awesome.

Posted by: Perspecticus on August 19, 2010 at 10:58 AM | PERMALINK

Perspecticus: That's great. So, the hatred and other vile sputum we've been treated to for the past three weeks from Geller, Gingrich, Palin, and Bachmann Crazy Overdrive was just for fun? Awesome.

Not for fun. For profit. [see: elections, 2010]

Posted by: chrenson on August 19, 2010 at 11:04 AM | PERMALINK

The most disturbing part of Deans comments is when he asked, 'what's the point of doing something good if so many people are against it?'.

THIS is the guy Liberals wanted for president?

Posted by: Alli on August 19, 2010 at 11:16 AM | PERMALINK

Perhaps it's less about Park51 and more about Obama and the whole DLC "gang"? There's no doubt that pushing Dean out as the head of DNC was both a stupid and a shabby thing to do. Dean is a politician and one with enough ego to have tried for the brass ring of the Presidency; losing both that and the leadership of the DNC has to smart. In the past, all Dean's stances against Obama were in tune with our own, more-left-than-center, positions, so we continued to admire him and didn't much notice that his stances/actions were also anti-Obama. Now that his being anti-Obama has put him on the side of bigots, it kind-a became glaring...

Posted by: exlibra on August 19, 2010 at 11:34 AM | PERMALINK

You people think Howard Dean is the real news item here? Hello?

The real news item here is the Cordoba Initiative is not much more than a nice idea that's being badly handled by the people behind it.

I have been under the impression the project was ready to begin construction, that the Landmarks Commission was the last hurdle. Now, having read the Politico article, I find they have no money, no architect, no design, and no plan. They have an idea and an old building. But no project.

I have denounced the outrage against this project from my liberal Christian pulpit. Now I am feeling duped into believing it was a "go" when it is probably five to ten years away.

In religious leadership circles, what Mr. Rauf and his wife have done is called "vision casting." Present a great idea in broad outline, see if there is support, organize a planning team if there is, present a detailed plan to people who might support it (usually a congregation), raise the money, complete the project. If it's a building project, this takes 2 - 5 years.

I was under the impression all of this had been done. Virtually none of it has been done. That seriously damages Mr. Rauf's credibility. Any thoughts I might have had about making a donation myself are ended.

If a fundamentalist Christian megachurch pastor had done this, you would feature it in "This Week In God."

Posted by: revchicoucc on August 19, 2010 at 12:05 PM | PERMALINK

NOW do you see why I suggested that:

1) Acknowledging the First Amendment on the issue, then pivoting to criticize Cordoba is the intelligent place to be, and

2) It would be a good idea if Rauf announced that he would take no Saudi money.

Now Saudi money is the ONLY way he can do it -- he's painted himself (and the Ds) into a corner.

Man, I hope none of you guys plays chess: ya gotta think several moves ahead.

Posted by: theAmericanist on August 19, 2010 at 12:10 PM | PERMALINK

Disappointing. Very disappointing.

Posted by: CDW on August 19, 2010 at 12:11 PM | PERMALINK

I have no idea how Dean ended up with this position. It's just bizarre.

You haven't been paying attention. His deck has been a couple of cards short for quite a while. He's just had a lot of apologists.

Posted by: cr on August 19, 2010 at 12:19 PM | PERMALINK

TheAmericanist, what you're suggesting is pretty similar to what Dean said, and like that position, it's strategically stupid and morally appalling. How on Earth do you think this vindicates you?

Posted by: bh on August 19, 2010 at 12:21 PM | PERMALINK

Harry Reid surrenders on this and the Right continues to go after him. Howard Dean surrenders on this and the Right continues to go after him.

This issue is the equivalent of "Munich 1938." Do these morons actually think that "appeasing" the Right on this will stop the war? The more they do this, the more they feed the enemy.

I am absolutely disgusted by the spinelessness of people who should know better, starting with President Obama and his sort-of defense (which results in more people thinking he's a secret Muslim), through Harry Reid, Howard Dean, Anthony Wiener, and the rest of the cowards calling themselves Democrats.

Posted by: TCinLA on August 19, 2010 at 12:49 PM | PERMALINK

@TC

You've either been misinformed (probably watching FOX) or are intentionally spreading misinformation (emulating FOX).

Obama never had a "sort-of defense." He has consistently said that they have a constitutional right to build the community center / mosque.

Please stop lieing.

Posted by: cr on August 19, 2010 at 12:56 PM | PERMALINK

This media driven issue is complete bullshit, talk to me about it face to face and I'll break your nose. Nation of idiots!

Posted by: Trollop on August 19, 2010 at 1:37 PM | PERMALINK

"strategically stupid and morally appalling"

Huh?

Take the latter first: Rauf, the Cordoba guy, wants Sharia judges to have a special role in the American judicial system. I think that's wrong.

How is saying so "morally appalling"? Methinks it's morally appalling that you WON'T say so, just cuz this guy wants to build a controversial mosque that he can't afford.

This guy is a Muslim reformer? Bullshit. He's a Sufi, which means he's closer to American values than, say, the Salafis, but he is still stuck in the view that no Muslim, to be a Muslim, can contradict or gainsay anything in the Recitation.

I cited an example of what Rauf's proposal for a Sharia judge's role in the US judiciary would mean, in a New Jersey rape case where a husband raped his wife, and the judge found he did not have a criminal intent because the Recitation says that a wife cannot refuse a husband.

Why are you guys bitching when somebody points out that folks who advocate what Rauf proposes are not people who want to reform Islam to conform to American values, but folks who want to conform American institutions to Islam?

Second, "strategically stupid".

Most -- hell, ALL -- the folks who have defended this project have insisted that it is a First Amendment issue, which settles it -- for them. The Politico piece demonstrates that this was always an almost unbelievably shortsighted position even for progressives.

The Cordoba folks evidently started this project without the financing, and without any clue how development gets done in Manhattan - and THEN, they demonstrated an impressively tin ear for the political and public relations aspects of it, even before they became a target for the likes of Robert Spencer.

Smarter folks than you guys would have thought a step or two down the road and concluded (as I suggested) -- gee, maybe we SHOULDN'T insist that this is such a great First Amendment case, since it'd be kind of a bad thing if we made a Constitutional case out of it and he never gets the financing together. Folks who wanted to reject the First Amendment argument would WIN -- not on First Amendment grounds, to be sure, but that's a Constitutional distinction without a political difference.

Pick your fights better, folks.

What I've said along -- which is NOT like what Dean said -- is:

1) Acknowledge that so far as the First Amendment is concerned, this is a done deal (or would be, since I also noted several times that there may yet be a bump in the road), and

2) It would be good if Rauf could announce he won't take Saudi financing.

Now, the guy is touring the Middle East (on the US taxpayer, no less) when his project is teetering on the edge because he has raised the political stakes AND failed to have the do re mi to get it done.

LOL -- the only thing that could make this worse is if the bin Ladens gave him the dough.

Which could yet happen, after all.

Posted by: theAmericanist on August 19, 2010 at 2:00 PM | PERMALINK

Dean has these "senior" moments and they are major career enders. He once did an interview with Rachel Maddow, who just loves Dean, and she was so shocked by his nonsensical responses that she became speechless. He claimed Al Qaeda would take over Iraq (all 80 of them) if we withdrew troops too soon and that Bush should not be impeached as it would detract from Policy-making...etc. etc. etc.

Sometimes the man makes no sense at all as he says things completely contrary to his stated beliefs and positions. It's why he will never be president. Nothing he said about the Cordoba issue makes a damn bit of sense.

I wish Benen could send him the post he wrote about this issue, saying what if it were a coffee house Rauf was trying to build.

How can such a brilliant likable man be such an insensitive jerk? This republican sickness is like a cancer eating away the principles our nation was founded on. The war of the fanatics egged on by repubs will leave us all devastated.

Posted by: bjobotts on August 19, 2010 at 3:55 PM | PERMALINK

Thanks Dean, being a Democrat hasn't been embarrassing enough lately. I really needed that extra kick in the balls.

Posted by: Red Jenny on August 19, 2010 at 5:23 PM | PERMALINK

If the GOP wants to put 9/11 front and center for this election the dems should let them-- and talk about how they all voted against health care for 9/11 responders.

They're hypocritical charlatans, plain and simple. It's the dems fault if they can't pick the low-hanging fruit off the ground. (No, I'm not holding my breath.)

Posted by: zoe kentucky on August 20, 2010 at 12:56 AM | PERMALINK

Metaphor mechanics: "low-hanging fruit" can't be picked "off the ground".

Fruit that has already fallen has begun to rot.

That is all.

Posted by: theAmericanist on August 20, 2010 at 3:55 AM | PERMALINK




 

 

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